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Life In 95 Minutes: Ridley Scott's New Documentary Records One Day Worldwide


Time capsules are primarily produced as elementary school class projects, leaving history in the hands of archivists most concerned with the preservation of their Pokemon cards and A+ spelling tests -- not necessarily the best way to provide an accurate picture of life at a given moment.

To get it right, you need a grander scale and better technology, which is exactly the combination director Kevin Macdonald and producer Ridley Scott had on their side when they set out to create the user-generated documentary Life In A Day.

Macdonald and Scott asked YouTube users to record their lives on one day, July 24, 2010, in hopes of getting enough responses to pull togetether a feature-length film illustrating the human experience.  Inspired by the World War II-era social archive project Mass Observation, their guidelines were simple:  tell us your story, tell us what you love and fear, and show us what's in your pockets.

Those twenty-four hours of life generated an astounding 4,500 hours of footage, submitted in over 80,000 video clips from 140 nations.  There's life milestones like marriage proposals and adventures like skydiving, but much of the 95-minute film focuses on the ordinary routines we all share, the rituals that are the same in Boston or in Bali, like watching the sunset or commuting to work.

Ordinary, but not boring.  When looking at scenes such as a worker's commute, the editing team tried to find a way to highlight how experiences could be simultaneously similar and diverse across the globe.

"Obviously, maybe one of those journeys is banal," Macdonald said in discussion with National Geographic, "but a hundred of them intercut showing all the different commuters, all the different pedestrians, all the different modes of transport, from bicycles to foot to trains to chauffeur driven cars ... suddenly becomes really fascinating."

Critics and audiences seem to agree so far.  Acclaimed at festivals from Sundance to SXSW, Life In A Day has been positively received by 97% of critics.

Locally, the only place to catch Life in A Day is the Coolidge Corner Theatre, where it opens August 5.  The film also hits screens in Revere and Worcester that same day, and you can request the film at your local cinema here, with the form at the bottom of the page.  Or check out the full footage archive on the Life In A Day YouTube channel, but be prepared to give up at least a day in your life poring through the thousands of clips.

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